Does Melted Snow Prove Assad is a Mass Murderer?

According to the Trump administration, a commercial satellite image of melted snow on a roof is supposed to 'prove' that President Assad is a mass murderer who carried out "mass killings of prisoners on a daily basis". It is alleged that 50 prisoners daily were hanged at the prison.

The image has a datestamp of January 8, 2015, although a report incorrectly claims it was taken on January "15". As can be seen from the weather data in the Appendix, the maximum temperature on January 8 was at least 6 C, and consequently, snow would be expected to thaw. The second half of the month was much warmer, with little or no precipitation.

In fact, the hourly data for 1pm on January 8 records a temperature of 7 C, and the temperature is at least 6 C between 11 am and 4 pm, with scattered clouds.

If the section of the building in question was an administration section or living quarters for the guards, and heated in winter, it would be hardly surprising to note more melting of snow on the roof, especially if there was little or no insulation to retain heat in the building. Even if the section was an oven room with multiple muffles, the room temperature would be barely above 20 C; i.e., low enough for the operators to perform their work of loading bodies and so on. Whether the room temperature is at 20 or 25 C is going to make little difference to the amount of snow melting, and there are other variables such as the presence of roof insulation and the amount of sunshine.

At Birkenau, conductive losses from the eight-muffle oven would have been in the region of 7.5 kW, which amounts to some 27 MJ hourly, or a little more than a kg of coke per hour or per corpse after allowing for the inefficiency of the furnace.

Let's suppose they have a triple-muffle cremation oven at Saydnaya. It might realistically be capable of up to one body per muffle per hour. If run for 20 hours daily, which would allow the necessary maintenance and cleaning out of slag, such a setup could be capable of disposing of up to 60 bodies daily. Such an oven is only going to release a few kilowatts into the room at maximum via conductive losses.

It is clear that a temperature difference of an extra few degrees in an oven room, as compared to normal living accommodation or an administration center, is not going to have an appreciable effect on the rate of snow melting on the roof. And it's not exactly impossible to fake photographic 'evidence'.


Here is daily weather data for Damascus International Airport. The airport is about 18 miles southeast of the capital, and the Saydnaya / Seydnaya military complex is 19 miles north of Damascus.

OSDI, Damascus International Airport, January, 2015; temperatures in C. Source: Weather Underground

Date Min. temp Max. temp Comments
1 2 18  
2 7 14  
3 1 15 Light rain, afternoon.
4 4 13  
5 6 13 Light rain, early morning.
6 4 13  
7 0 3 Rain to 9am, then rain & snow.
8 0 6 Light snow or rain to 3am.
9 -3 2 Only snow at 11am, at 2 C.
10 -6 3 Snow only from 9pm.
11 -2 5 Snow to 5am.
12 -2 3 Hourly data incomplete; no precipitation shown.
13 1 7 Mostly clear; dry.
14 0 9  
15 2 7 Morning rain.


Date Min. temp Max. temp Comments
16 1 12 Little or no precipitation
17 3 9 in 2nd half of month.
18 -1 11 Max. temperatures
19 0 11 clearly high enough
20 0 12 to melt any snow.
21 -1 20  
22 -2 18  
23 3 15  
24 1 17  
25 3 17  
26 3 20  
27 1 14  
28 4 18  
29 2 16  
30 1 14  
31 1 17  


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